Mobile Accessible eLearning

Is the notion of an artificially intelligent simulation dead?

(Or: Why you can be confident our simulations will never rise up to extinguish all of humanity.)

PART I

“Artificial intelligence” is just one of those terms. It grabs the imagination, doesn’t it? What does it make you think of? Maybe it evokes images of sci-fi adventures like TRON in which an altruistic prodigy programs a world of artificially intelligent beings more perfect than their creator. Or, perhaps you think of darker images such as the chilling, mutinous computer HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (As for the “rise of the machines” in Terminator 2… let’s not even go there.)

For me, artificial intelligence is not the stuff of sci-fi thrillers, but rather something much more utilitarian and closer to my vocation in the field of learning. I imagine an e-based learning experience that can adapt to the unique needs of each learner.

Okay, so maybe that’s mundane stuff for most people, but I think there’s still a lot here to be excited about.

Nearly a decade ago, a friend of mine, named Clark Aldrich, developed the first “artificially intelligent” business simulation. Clark and his team at Simulearn called that program Virtual Leader, and used it to teach interpersonal skills to leaders. In addition to creating a real breakthrough in design through the use of avatars and a powerful gaming engine, Virtual Leader was the first of its kind to adapt to the individual needs of the learner.

As you engaged with Virtual Leader, the simulation’s AI engine seemed to identify your bad habits. For example, let’s say you demonstrated a habit of interrupting and talking over other people. The computer would “notice” this behavior and then adapt to expose it as an area of developmental need.

Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it?  We all thought so. In fact, we thought that Virtual Leader would forever transform the way that e-based learning was designed and delivered.

But that didn’t quite happen. Mainstream application of these techniques has proven quite elusive for lots of reasons, including development costs in the millions of dollars; project timelines that can take years instead of months; and the difficulty of creating access within locked-down corporate IT environments.  And so the promise of artificial intelligence in business learning never quite came about.

But all of that is about to change. Check in next week to learn how.

Gamification – It’s More Than Keeping Score.

As our previous posts have alluded to, gamification is the current hot topic in training.  And there is real power in well-designed, effective gamification in other aspects of life, as David Hutchens mentioned last week. Many people are now discovering the power of gamification combined with social networking to make positive changes to their weight and health through apps like LoseIt, and Fitocracy. Even insurance companies are developing apps to take advantage of the power, such as UnitedHealth Group’s OptumizeMe, an app that allows people to participate in fitness-related contests with their friends.

Building an effective game or engaging training experience that uses game elements is more than just adding score keeping, and challenges. Jesse Schell in his book, The Art of Game Design. A Book of Lenses, suggests that effective game design is all about creating an engaging experience – one that draws players in and that they would want to repeat. As training designers we need to consider not “what game elements can I add,” but what will make this experience memorable, unique and engaging. After all, retention of the experience (and thus the learning) is the real goal.

As David mentioned in his post, at Blueline Simulations, we combine the elements of play, competition, and feedback to enrich our designs. We enhance the power of these elements by placing them within unique visual and story contexts to make them both more engaging and memorable. Whether it is a one-of-a-kind Blueline Blueprint ™ (learning visual), rich with visual metaphor and client specific detail, or one of our custom eSimulations, the story and content always come first. They provide the context, rationale and “stickiness” that bring the training to life and make it effective at generating results.

Give us a call, and we’ll explore not just how to gamify your learning programs, but how to build engaging experiences that change behavior and get business results.

Gamification: is it Edu-tainment or a Genuine Opportunity to Engage Learners?

You are invited to join us for what I am confident will be an interesting and informative webinar hosted by my friend and business partner: Brian Knudson. Brian is the Founder of NogginLabs and knows a thing or two about achieving learning transfer through gamification – and has 7 Brandon Hall gaming awards to prove it.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a huge budget or complex programming to design eLearning that’s as addictive as Angry Birds. If motivating your learners is a challenge, join us on Wednesday, December 12th from 12:00 to 12:30 pm EST, for this free webinar. Learn the basic principles of gamification, and how best to apply them to your eLearning initiatives.

This webinar is free to training professionals with a valid company email address; please complete your RSVP by Monday, December 10th and we will provide you with a meeting invite and access information.

I hope you can join us to see how gamification can take your organization’s eLearning to the next level.

Author Moves us Closer to the Promise of the iPad

When the iPad was introduced three years ago many in the community wrote about its potential use in corporate training, including me. Since then, many organizations have begun to take advantage of the iPad’s portability, constant connection through WiFi or cellular networks and engaging interactivity to create custom training solutions for their workforce. Unfortunately, the tools to really tap the potential of the iPad were not readily available or accessible to most designers. Training solutions on the iPad meant creating custom apps and that meant hiring programmers to bring the module to life.

Apple recently changed all that. With the introduction of Author and iBooks 2, Apple has opened the door for instructional designers and developers to create rich, engaging, interactive training without the need to learn programming skills or hire a programmer. While Author and iBooks 2 were introduced as Apple’s answer to expensive, heavy, out-of-date-by-the-time-they-ship textbooks for K-12, it can be used for much more.

In case you missed the announcement, Author is a new Mac program for creating highly interactive books and is available for free on the Mac App Store. With a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get interface it allows creators to just drag and drop elements of a book onto the creation screen. Take a Word file of text, add images, movies, Keynote presentations, even interactive 3D animations and Author will automatically create a layout ready for the iPad. It has built in testing features, and makes full use of the iPad’s gestures for zooming, tapping to expand or launch a movie, etc.

It’s easy to imagine a number of elearning modules being adapted for deployment as an iBook 2, which means greater portability, easy reference at the point of need and personalization. In the new iBook format you can easy highlight information and then review it. Imagine a Human Resource Representative, who highlighted key passages of new policies or governmental regulations, being able to quickly and easily reference those noted areas weeks or even months later when a relevant need arises.

I also imagine that sales organizations will be developing product training that can also be used for doing demonstrations for customers.  As new product information is reviewed, the salesperson can highlight those sections most applicable to their particular customers’ needs. Then when on a sales call, just pull up the noted section and tap on the accompanying video to demo it for the customer.

When it was introduced, the iPad was a revolutionary product that eliminated much of the complexity and learning curve involved with using a computer. I believe in time we will see Author and iBooks 2 as the next stage in that revolution that brings the creation of compelling, interactive content to a wide population. And this is just version 1.0. Apple’s history suggests that they have many other capabilities and features in mind that we will see over the next couple of years.

Over 20 years ago desktop publishing software provided affordable tools that allowed almost anyone to create a brochure or newsletter, but that did not do away with the importance of good design skills. Now Apple has introduced tools to allow almost anyone to create an interactive training in the form of an iBook 2, but that won’t do away with the need for good training design skills. Though the tools just became more accessible, effective and engaging training will still rely on great design. Let the award-winning designers at Blueline Simulations help you explore how you might deploy interactive iBooks to meet your organization’s objectives.

Our Customers are Telling us They Want Blueline Innovation… but at a Lower Cost and with High Value.

We’ve been listening! Our customers are telling us they want Blueline innovation… but at a lower cost and with high value. We’ve borrowed a little bit of seasonal North Pole magic to make your wishes come true.

Today, we’re introducing lower cost-alternatives to Blueline custom training solutions. But we’ve got a few other surprises under the tree, including innovative methods for saving on travel costs, implementing mobile learning, and sharing training and communications resources.

Introducing a new suite of high-value, low-cost solutions from Blueline Simulations:

eBooks: The contemporary online elearning solution that can also be delivered via iOS, Android and Blackberry mobile devices.

Imagine your favorite interactive “magazine” format (e.g. CNN.com or the Wall Street Journal Online). As a learning and communication tool, these eBooks are incredibly effective… and are far more accepted by the new generation of learners than old school rapid development platforms like Captivate, Lectora and Articulate.

And the new technologies introduced in 2011 enable our team of developers to design eBooks that will run on all Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad), as well as Android devices and Blackberry’s new Playbook tablet.

In other words, it’s a single solution for a broadly distributed audience operating on multiple operating systems. The applications are endless, and we’d love to show you some of the innovative ways we’ve put eBooks to work for our clients.

Journey Maps: The simpler, faster, lower cost alternative to a Blueline Blueprint –when only a picture will do.

A Journey Map is a smaller, 11 x 17 rendering that visually depicts complex messages. By design, these highly flexible images can carry change messages quickly and efficiently through your organization over a variety of media. The icon-driven approach, simple timeline presentations, and short marketing-style copy have been proven to be the perfect combination when rendering complex systems with simplicity and emotional engagement.

The value of the Journey Map just keeps going: The primary design elements of the document can be isolated and delivered as individual graphics for use in other applications. For example, individual icons may be placed within explanatory documents in Word format, or used in online documents. Our clients have used the Journey Map elements to add context to their company intranet, employee handbooks, strategy presentations, internal communications branding, and more.

Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT): Transform your classroom training into high-impact, virtual-instructor-led training online and save tens of thousands of dollars in travel costs.

At Blueline Simulations, VILT is much more than a “web meeting.” Today we are creating engaging, interactive learning events… while still saving time and money. We are exploring this new medium with:

•         Immersive story lines and passports

•         Collaborative team-based activities and assignments

•         Socratic discussions, remote synchronous role-plays and networking

•         Rich interactive debriefs

•         …and more.

Yes, it can be done. And when it all comes together, it is a thing of beauty.

Want to learn more about how cost effective it is to make learning a competitive advantage for your business? Call the talent management experts at Blueline Simulations today!